Saturday, January 20, 2007

Facing Demons

I'm currently studying in Luke, and I just got to the end of the story in Luke 8 where Jesus heals a demon-possessed man.

It strikes me sometimes how normative demon possession seems in the Bible, as compared to today. I don't think for a minute that this is because demons are no longer active, nor do I believe that they don't possess people today. I just think that, as predators are prone to do, demons have developed camoflauge.

In our culture, something as supernatural as demon possession would stand out like the sun at midnight. It would serve as 'proof' of the supernatural, which of course would be a problem for demons, as they are quite happy for us to believe that there is no being greater than ourselves, no event in the universe that we can't (eventually) explain with science. Particularly demons that seem to have super strength, as this one did.

So when demons possess people today, in our western culture, I think they find more subtle ways to go about their activities, leaving us none the wiser.

Its also interesting to note that the society tried everything they could think of to restrain this evil. They chained the guy, even put him under guard, but he managed to escape every time. Eventually they let him run wild, and the man was apparently left alone so long as he stayed out of sight. Not that its a secret -- things like this can't remain secret for long.

Don't we do this too? Say a guy struggles with lust. Perhaps he tries everything he knows to do, on his own, but the lust keeps overpowering his restraint. So eventually the guy lets it run wild -- but most of the time he keeps it out of sight, hoping that he is not found out. At first he may keep it secret, but if he doesn't deal with the problem, it won't remain secret for long.

So how does Jesus deal with the demon? At first he commands it to come out, but apparently that doesn't work (!), and Jesus' next step is to ask the demon its name. To rephrase, Jesus clearly defines the problem. And once the source of the trouble is clearly defined, it's the beginning of the end of the problem. I'll come back to this in a sec.

Now, I wish I understood the whole thing with the pigs. Why would Jesus NOT throw the demons into the 'Abyss', whatever exactly that is; and why would he ALLOW the demons to go and kill a herd of pigs? Seems like Jesus could have handled this a lot of ways, and yet this way seems like a bad deal, for the pigs, for the pigs' owners, etc. I got nothin'.

Skipping that, then, the townspeople come out, and they see Jesus beside the unibomber (so to speak), but the unibomber is suddenly all cleaned up. I'd be scared. They were. And they ask Jesus to take a hike. Jesus ends up telling the healed man to go and tell people what God has done for him.

So the overarching theme? When you face your demons -- and you will; they are absolutely attacking this world -- when you do, start with Jesus. After your best efforts with Jesus, if they are still hanging around, make sure you've clearly defined them. Are you dealing with a symptom of the problem, and there is a deeper root that you have yet to address?

And once you've faced your demons, even as you're facing them, talk about it. Bring your demons out of the dark and into the light. You'll find that you are encouraged in this, and you will encourage others whose demons are as yet a secret.